A REPORT released by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) has found that new avenues of information sharing needed to addressed to better target awareness activities on the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) and upcoming referendum in 2019.

The report, based on a survey of over 1,000 people across Bougainville, found that the varying, but generally low access to government information required new approaches with greater attention to presentation of information.

The report recommended tapping into new channels people are using such as mobile phone and video, but with a general need to focus on the content of information with clear, simple and consistently repeated messages, designed with the target audience in mind – whether they be youth, women or people of different levels of literacy.

The survey was an initiative of the Bureau of Media and Communications and was conducted by the Centre for Social and Creative Media , University of Goroka.

ABG chief secretary Joseph Nobetau the government was listening to the voice of the people.

“This survey has gone down to the grassroots level to find out why awareness of the BPA and government remains low,” Mr Nobetau said.

“It has found the penetration of traditional media: radio, newspapers and television, and newer internet channels is very low, especially outside Buka and Arawa. This creates a major challenge for a government to communicate with its people.”

The research showed there was still confusion about key aspects of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

People said they wanted the government to come down to their level, invest in radio, but also suggested new ideas, like using mobile phone for information dissemination.

Mr Nobetau said while the survey showed there is a lot of work to do to prepare people for the referendum, it also gave many good ideas about how to do things better.

“The lack of a good understanding of the Peace Agreement is evidence that we cannot rely on using the same old awareness approaches of the past. We must look at presenting information more clearly, more consistently, more often, and use a variety of different ways to get a two-way flow of information happening. This will create greater impact and greater understanding.”

The head of the Bureau of Media and Communications Adriana Schmidt, said they were already responding to the findings.

“We are currently working with the Department of Peace Agreement Implementation to prepare multi-media information kits for our Members of Parliament, producing video and investigating mobile-phone based awareness,” Ms Schmidt said.

“With this report, the government has listened to the views of people and we are now better placed to plan and implement improved awareness.”

The Chief Secretary called upon all government agencies and communication partners to use the report to improve engagement with community.

“The task ahead is to better target our awareness campaigns and we will continue to survey and measure our activities in this regard.”

The Bougainville Audience Study asked people about their access to radio, mobile phone, TV, newspaper and the internet, their most trusted sources of information, and preferred ways of receiving government news. The research also asked people about their level of understanding of the three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement: weapons disposal, autonomy and referendum, and other issues.

The survey was an initiative of the Bureau of Media and Communications,

conducted by Centre for Social and Creative Media , University of Goroka, with funding support from the governments of Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Australia and New Zealand.

Over 1,114 people were surveyed, and 200 in-depth interviews conducted.